I have referenced a number of times that Arthur is in heaven. Believing this was extremely helpful to get me through the second half of my pregnancy with him, to enjoy his birth and time with us, and to experience peace even as I grieve his passing. It is a very comforting thing to me.
But is it true? Does the Bible support this?
If it is not, then I have no basis for this hope that I will see my son again. It’s just something that sounds nice. It’s just wishful thinking.
But I am convinced that it is. It is one of the things in this journey that has given me hope.
I know it to be true from my own study of what God says in the Bible, but it was extremely helpful for me to read a book by John MacArthur called, Safe In The Arms Of God. Writing to both families who have gone through child loss and those who are helping them, he walks through Scripture to show God’s mercy and tenderness towards babies, children and those mentally incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong. He acknowledges that while saying babies go to heaven when they die sounds comforting and helpful, it actually isn’t if it is not true. I do not have the space here to dive into all the details that MacArthur does. I will leave that for you to read in his book (if you are someone who has lost a child, or if you know someone who has, I highly, HIGHLY encourage you to read this book). But I would like to share some of what has given me confidence in my grief that I will see him again.
According to the Bible, all people are born in sin. As sinners we stand under the righteous judgment of God. But God’s Word also reveals One who lived without sin yet died for the sins of others. And it promises forgiveness and eternal life with God (heaven) to anyone who through faith embraces Jesus’s perfectly righteous life and sacrificial death on their behalf, and strives with God’s help to live in a way that pleases Him. Those that don’t acknowledge and submit to Jesus are left with the penalty of their sin still upon them, and are destined for God’s eternal judgment (hell). But what about babies, born and unborn, and little ones and others who cannot understand and embrace these promises from God?
There is not a verse in the Bible that directly says, “All babies go to heaven.” But I believe that by looking at the biblical narrative – that is, the entire story of the Bible, from the very beginning all the way to the last book – we can see that it is completely consistent with the character of God for Him to grant little children that die to be with Him in eternity. And there are numerous examples throughout Scripture that support this belief. No one is saved from judgement outside of the work of Jesus, but I believe God extends much mercy to those who die in the womb and in the early years in this life.
There is a story in the Old Testament about King David and his baby, a son, who died just a few days after he was born. David slept with another man’s wife, had the man killed, and the woman (Bathsheba) became pregnant. David is confronted with his sin by the prophet Nathan. He is remorseful and repentant, but there are still consequences to his actions, one of them being that this illegitimate son will die shortly after birth. David pleaded to the Lord to spare the child’s life. He even fasted. But the child died seven days after birth. David’s response is an interesting one:
Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate. Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:20-23 ESV)
I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.
What does this mean? His son would not return to him in this life, but he would go to his son, being reunited with him after his own death. Was King David destined for heaven? While he sinned greatly, he repented of his sins and he is described as “a man after [God’s] heart” (Acts 13:22). When you read his writings, you can see David has a love for God and an understanding of his final destination.
Job, a righteous man who experienced both the best this life has to offer and the worst (he lost all his children and his possessions), says it would be better to have been stillborn, for him to have gone straight from his mother’s womb to being at rest with God, having skipped all the suffering this present world has in it (Job 3:11-19; 10:18-19).
Jesus himself was especially fond of children during His earthly ministry, and used them as an analogy as he taught his disciples about dependency on God:
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away. (Matthew 19:13-15 ESV)
MacArthur writes in response to this passage: “‘But’, you may say, ‘ Jesus was only using the children as an analogy for the way adults are converted and become a part of the kingdom of God.’ Let me quickly point out to you that an analogy works only if it is rooted in truth! If children are not readily and fully received into the kingdom of heaven, the analogy to spiritual conversion would be a very poor one. As it is, the analogy is a great one! Children are readily accepted into the kingdom, and because of that, we are wise to become like children in our spiritual dependency upon the Lord so that we, too, might be readily accepted.”
If all this is true (and I believe that it is), then heaven is FULL of babies and children.
Arthur is in heaven.
Arthur’s anencephaly baby friends are in heaven.
The baby that you miscarried is in heaven.
Your baby with an unexplained stillborn or SIDS death is in heaven.
All the babies and toddlers you read about in the news killed in tragic accidents are in heaven.
The 59 million babies who have been killed in this country since the Roe v. Wade decision are in heaven.
What a wonderful existence they all have right now.
Just as important as the question “Is my baby is heaven?” is “Am I going to heaven when I die?” If my baby is going to be there and I am not, that would be an even greater tragedy than losing Arthur shortly after birth – being separated from God for eternity and never getting to see my son again. It is not by my own works or by my strength that I get to heaven. I know my own heart to know I can’t get there on my own, nor do I deserve it. All I must do is believe:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17 ESV)
My confidence only lies in the work Jesus has done for me. My trust lies in Him, not me. By His power alone, I know I will be brought safely to heaven.
And I. CAN’T. WAIT. to get there.
My soul is anchored in my heavenly home, because of my Jesus, and my gaze is ever more fixed upon it because of my Arthur.